Motivation Articles

Moderation in All Things

How to Avoid the Diet Blues


Sounds simple, right?

Like many things, it's not quite as easy as it sounds. Chances are…you want results quickly. And you probably know that your current routine is problematic in one or more ways—too much fast food, sugar, or fat and not enough physical activity. Your natural inclination is going to be making big, sweeping changes to your diet and activity level right away.

In short, everything in you is clamoring for a very anti-moderate approach. You’re primed to play the extreme diet game, even though your odds of winning are less than five percent.

Moderate Your Thinking
To rescue yourself from your own impatience (and the clutches of the diet industry that feeds on it), you need to moderate your thinking. Here are two core concepts that will help you do that:

Concept #1: Food is not the enemy. There are no "good" or "bad" foods. True, some foods offer you a better nutritional deal than others. Refined sugar, for example, provides calories for energy but no other nutrients, while fruit is sweet but also provides vitamins and fiber in a low-calorie package. But refined sugar isn't evil or bad—it can have a place in a healthy diet. It's important to know what you need nutritionally and where you can find it, so you can take charge of balancing your needs for pleasure, nutrition, and fuel.

The Payoff: When you stop labeling foods as good or bad, diet or non-diet, you won't feel guilty when you eat a food that isn't on your "approved" list. Instead you'll have more energy to learn about nutrition and improve your ability to make informed choices. And you won't have to give up your favorite treats if you find ways to work them into your meal plans so they don’t interfere with your health goals. Without the guilt and deprivation, you’ll be able to break the pattern of cravings, emotional swings, and binges that defeats so many diets. Without all those "diet" rules to follow, you’ll learn to trust your own instincts and make good judgments.

Concept #2: Progress—not perfection—is important. To be successful, you don't have to always make perfect decisions and have perfect days where things go exactly as you planned. If you eat more or exercise less than you wanted to one day, you can make up for it over the next several days if you want, or you can just chalk it up to experience and move on. Remind yourself that what happens on any one day is not going to make or break your whole effort. This is not a contest or a race, where every little misstep could mean the difference between winning and losing. It’s your life—and you’ll enjoy it a lot more when you can keep the daily ups and downs of your eating and exercise routine in perspective.
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

    I eat on the little plates and and really obsess when I'm tracking my food to show me how much I'm putting in my body. It has really helped me a lot on see how much I used to eat and what I was eating. - 11/23/2015 8:42:00 AM
  • I love the balanced approach encouraged in this article. I've maintained an 80-lb. weight loss for about five years now, but it was only when I decided to eat anything I wanted within reason (in the maintenance phase) that the deprivation which so often prompted my binge-eating in the past disappeared. I know now that I can always enjoy all kinds of treats - even the luscious candy bar pictured! - though within reason. I still have to track my food intake (and weigh and measure my food), but what a small price to pay to enjoy the best of all worlds :) - 10/15/2015 7:09:27 PM
  • MYSOTISBLUE53 this chapter is about changing our mindset and eating in moderation...etc heres the glitch for me.....i look at the pictures, click on a link, go to the next page, and what does each new page show me????? That lucious looking, coconut, creamy filled chocolate, mouth drooling, mind melting, diet busting, crazy making, salivation slobbering CANDY BAR!!!! Gimme a break......hhhmmm
    mm......gimme a break...break me off a piece of that beautuful candy bar......have you got my mind drift yet????? Cum on
    - 8/29/2015 9:39:39 AM
    ❤️ This article. I will refer to it often. - 8/21/2015 9:48:38 AM
  • I met a couple of girls at the gym last week. They asked me what program I was using when I was doing the circuit training. I explained it was just the weights I needed on the weight machines but told them about SP. As we were discussing the whole "diet" thing. I explained how I used to weigh 287 lbs. Now 171. They asked how I did it. They commented on how I am now obsessed. What they don't realize is the lifestyle I live now IS in moderation! I eat every thing I desire, drink whenever I want. But!!! I also have a mindset when watching food commercials of what the fat content is in that burger, how many carbs is really in that latte. I have chosen to live a healthier lifestyle, make smarter choices, and be more active. I've been like this for 14 years. This is what works for where are my car keys....I need a taco bell taco please! - 3/30/2015 6:38:52 AM
  • I developed an eating disorder and gained a massive amount of weight after engaging in restrictive diets. Recovery from my eating disorder has meant giving up diets and the restrictive black and white mentality that surrounds dieting. I have lost 80 lbs so far, very, very, slowly without restrictions, without eliminating so-called 'trigger' foods. Dieting is a proven predictor of weight GAIN, not loss. If there was one thing I would stress is that you should NEVER engage in restrictive diets. They will probably lead to weight GAIN and can trigger serious eating disorders. No one wants to hear that though. The imaginary dieting bullet has a stronger pull on people than research and science. - 2/22/2015 9:37:04 AM
  • I have tried the 'moderation' rule, but honestly, it doesn't work for me. Take chocolate, or chips: if I stick to just a little portion, I feel worse than if I give them up altogether. I haven't eaten chocolate for weeks but it's not so dramatic. I could never go with just a spoonful of Nutella a day, it makes me crave for the whole jar, if I know I have one in my cupboard. So I simply delete them from my diet. Things are easier when it comes to different kinds of "food temptations", like my number one weakness, pizza: I stick to one pizza a week, no more than that. I can't get distracted by the 'it's just the last small portion I'm having' train of thought: one pizza is one pizza, not a bag of small pizza bits. - 12/2/2014 12:03:10 PM
  • I don't believe in 'all foods in moderation' because there are foods that are just plain horrible for your health.

    Refined sugar isn't evil or bad? WTH? Actually yes it is and the less of it you eat the healthier you will be.

    This journey isn't just about losing or maintaining weight for me. It's about being healthy and in order to be healthy things like soda pop and sugary candy can't be eaten moderately.

    Think about it this way. Smoking a moderate amount of cigarettes is better than smoking 2 packs a day but isn't it even better not to smoke any at all? - 11/17/2014 8:07:50 AM
    I really really really liked this article about 'moderation vs elimination'.
    For me it is true that I cannot do 'moderation' and believe me, I have tried. I can eat veggies and fruit in moderation. But things like chocolate and ice cream: sorry no, cannot do it. By now I think I will be much better off cutting that 'food' out. - 10/9/2014 2:00:35 PM
  • great tips getting me back on the hike to good health and not weight loss is the answer . - 9/11/2014 10:09:46 AM
  • Great article! - 8/24/2014 9:45:29 AM
  • I have friends who go on "diets", then they talk about how tempted they are to have pie or cake or pizza or beer or whatever, so I tell them, go on, and have it, only dont eat the whole pie, dont eat the whole box of ice cream and dont drink the whole case of beer.
    the craving we think we are having for a food, is really only our minds trying to trick us.
    we just have to play along, and give into the craving, but keep in mind, once you have had a bite or two, or one beer, usually, for most people, you have satisified that need.
    its no different than a smoker who is using the patches or the ecigs to quit smoking.
    they are still getting what they need, until eventually they dont need it anymore.
    same with food, if you just have to have a candy bar, have one of the small ones and eat it in slow, small bites, trick your mind into thinking you have eaten the whole bar. - 7/22/2014 10:16:38 AM
  • about the same percentage of people who attempt to eat everything in moderation also will gain weight back. This proves that making a lifestyle change is difficult no matter what path you follow. - 3/13/2014 3:51:43 PM
  • Having lost 100 pounds, I'm more convinced than ever that this is true. Tonight I plan on going out for dinner for my husband's birthday and I may have a dessert. I haven't had one for a long time, and I'm going to enjoy it, and tomorrow when I wake up I will go right back to my regular habits. The all-or-nothing mindset just does not work for most people. - 3/11/2014 5:38:16 PM
  • It sounds great, but sugar and grain turn to glucose. I for one cannot eat sugar in moderation. I tried for 30 years. Only after eliminating grain and sugar have I controlled my binge eating.

    I may be an exception but effective weight control depends a great deal on learning what is right for your own body. - 2/5/2014 4:03:10 PM

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